I was about to go to bed last night at like midnight. My kid brother Lincoln (11) had the Gamecube on and he was like "Dan, wanna play a couple rounds of Soul Calibur?" I figured what's the harm in crushing him a few times before bed, and I grabbed a controller.
I sat down and picked Nightmare. He's the only character I've really figured out, but I'm pretty good with him. My bro picked Link and we started to play. He beat me in the first game. Now, this is a game that lends itself to button-mashing a little bit, and I figured he'd just gotten a bit lucky, plus I was pretty rusty since I haven't played this particular game for a couple of years probably. But as we played more rounds, not only was he beating me consistently, but he was picking random characters. Every time I went to hit him he was blocking. Every time I tried to guard he did a grab. He got up to like ten wins and I didn't have any. After a while, I looked over at him between games, but he pretended not to notice. He just kept staring at the screen, bright eyed, stifling that cocky little grin of his.
Turns out the little twerp had been practicing. Like, for weeks. I was like, "No," and I started playing like it was life or death. We started going back and forth, he'd win two, I'd win two, him, me, etc. I slowly got back into my old rhythm, and I was able to see the holes in his. My guard-breaks started working again because as I played his timing became more and more predictable to me. I also started remembering my old go-to moves with the character. By the time he got to twenty wins, I was only down by like five. That's when he stopped picking random characters. He hadn't looked at me once this whole time, just kept grinning at the screen. Now, he fixed his eyes on mine, and while staring into them and still grinning casually, calmly, he somehow navigated his character selection icon to Nightmare- my character.
The fights were all extremely close after that point. But he was just barely winning them all. He took about five wins in a row, expanding his lead back to a comfortable ten or so. He was using Nightmare's range and power like a freaking pro, and he knew just when to use the quick little disruptive moves to stop my power attacks that require time to execute. But after a while I noticed that he wasn't guarding low very well, and I exploited that, once again leveling out the win/loss spread. It took HOURS, but I finally caught up to him at like 51 wins even. It was about four in the morning, and I was ready to pass him and build up enough of a lead to be able to prove to him conclusively that I'm still the superior player. But he did probably the most infuriating thing he could have done: He changed characters.
It felt like beating him as a different character wouldn't have been as meaningful or poetic, especially after the humiliation he'd been doling out all night by force feeding me my own medicine. But I figured if I started beating him badly enough he might wise up and go back to Nightmare, or at least a stronger one than freaking Voldo, the goofy contortionist Edward Scissorhands freak. But picking Voldo right then, at this deciding juncture, this game point match, was almost like a challenge. Like, "Dan, if I beat you with this idiot character after all these fights, you might as well just kill yourself," so that's how I took it.
The battle was epic. My brother was alarmingly good with Voldo, and he was able to use the absurdity and unpredictability of the character's bizarre, crawling, twisting stances to maneuver around my advantage of superior range. He was masterfully sidestepping my vertical strikes and simply crawling under my horizontal ones. My health was almost at zero by the time I hit him once. But I kept him at bay, unleashing a barrage of fully charged swings to keep him away. He blocked or evaded all of this, saving his health meter, but it kept him from delivering his kill blow. But the clock was running down. I knew that if the timer hit zero I'd lose the match, simply because I had less health. But there was one chance. I saw that he was inches away from the edge of the ring. I had no choice but to take the shot. I hit the button combination for Nightmare's tremendous upward swing; the one that is agonizingly slow, but shatters any guard technique in the game. Time slowed. I watched with bated breath as the animation for the attack started. It took aeons. Ages...
Lincoln had three choices. With blocking out of the question, he could either sidestep, advance for the kill, or be launched into orbit. But Lincoln has always been one to march to the beat of his own drummer, and when presented with three options he will always find a fourth. In Soul Calibur, you can make your character jump, in order to do areal strikes or to evade low attacks. His character, Voldo, jumps in a very distinctive way that looks kind of like an excited Japanese schoolgirl. Lincoln performed this jump backwards, just in time to avoid my attack... and fall to his death.
We died. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I was certain I was going to die of asphyxiation or an exploded abdomen. Lincoln made himself cry from laughing so hard. The worst part was that any time one of us started to catch our breath, the other would lose it, resulting in this relentless chain chuckling reaction that I swear must have lasted for like twenty minutes. I was literally begging him to leave the room between pained gasps for breath because his laughter kept reactivating my own and I couldn't get up. He tried to crawl away, but that just made it worse.
So I won in the end, but he made me work for it. And then he made me pay.